There’s something up with Trump, but there has always been implicit violence in the air:
The Secret Service protected MSNBC reporter Katy Tur after Donald Trump launched a personal attack at a December rally.
The candidate had previously blasted her as “dishonest” for her coverage of protests at an earlier rally and demanded an apology, which Tur refused to give.
“What a lie. Katy Tur. What a lie it was,” Trump said, pointing at Tur from the stage. “Third. Rate. Reporter. Remember that.”
In an essay for Marie Claire, Tur wrote that the crowd turned on her “like a large animal, angry and unchained.” Afterwards, the Secret Service took what she described as the “extraordinary” precaution of walking Tur to her car.
That’s not their job. They’re not supposed to be protecting reporters from a candidate’s riled-up supporters, but he does get them riled up:
Trump has a history of lashing out at what he calls the “very, very dishonest” media and a slew of reporters and publications have been denied access to Trump’s campaign events, including The New York Times, BuzzFeed News, Telemundo, Politico and The Des Moines Register.
Katy Tur, like the others, had reported that there were many angry protesters at Trump rallies. Trump called that dishonest and unfair, and in this case he pointed her out to the crowd, because she had refused to apologize for reporting that, and it seems some thought she should be taught a lesson. She was. The networks and newspapers now provide their own security for their reporters, although it would be easier to just report the news exactly as Donald Trump wants it reported. For now they’ll eat that cost. The man often calls for violence in response to disagreement. Report on that, and be careful.
And a small item out of North Carolina indicates that there are internal issues too:
The Trump campaign staffer who was sued Wednesday by a former colleague who accused him of pulling a gun on him has resigned, local TV station WCCB reported Thursday.
Earl Phillip had worked as the Trump campaign’s North Carolina state director, but recently was moved to work on minority outreach, according to the report.
“I have retained legal counsel. I have also stepped down from all affiliation with any and all organizations associated with Donald J. Trump for President to include the campaign and National Diversity Coalition for Trump,” Phillip said in a statement to the news outlet.
There was no problem with this until the guy sued:
On Wednesday, Vincent Bordini, a former staffer on the campaign, filed a lawsuit in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, against both Phillip and the Trump campaign. The suit alleged that Phillip had brandished his gun at Bordini during a car ride in February and that the Trump campaign did not take any action against Phillip, even though Bordini said he had reported the incident to multiple parties.
The guy put a loaded gun to other guy’s knee and threatened to shoot unless the guy shaped up. They laughed at him when he complained. What’s the big deal? But the guy filing a public lawsuit was a big deal. No matter what the NRA might say, and no matter what Trump’s base might say, others might say this is not how bosses are supposed to treat subordinates. It’s too easy to imagine a President Trump kneecapping a staffer who’s pissed him off, and laughing as the guy bleeds. The base may love that sort of thing, but you don’t want others imagining that. Earl Phillip had to resign.
But others already sense what’s going on:
The daughter of former president Ronald Reagan chastised Donald Trump for his “glib” suggestion that “Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices as president.
“I am the daughter of a man who was shot by someone who got his inspiration from a movie, someone who believed if he killed the President the actress from that movie would notice him,” Patti Davis wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post, referring to the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan by John Hinckley Jr.
“Your glib and horrifying comment about ‘Second Amendment people’ was heard around the world,” she continued.
Trump and his staffers have insisted that he never meant to encourage violence and meant that gun-owning voters should defeat Clinton at the polls. Davis and others have pointed out that the vagueness of his remark left it open to interpretation, and said that a presidential candidate is responsible for the way people read his words.
“It was heard by your supporters, many of whom gleefully and angrily yell, ‘Lock her up!’ at your rallies,” Davis wrote. “It was heard by the person sitting alone in a room, locked in his own dark fantasies, who sees unbridled violence as a way to make his mark in the world, and is just looking for ideas. Yes, Mr. Trump, words matter.”
Others have said words matter. Hillary Clinton has now said words matter, over and over, but this was Ronald Reagan’s daughter using Ronald Reagan against Donald Trump. The Trump campaign had nothing to say about this. They decided not to call her a wimp and a whiner. Don’t mess with the Reagan thing.
And there’s more:
A whopping 83 percent of Americans were bothered by the fact that Donald Trump once mocked a disabled New York Times reporter. That bothered more people than any other criticism of Trump – and more than anything Hillary Clinton has done.
Those results come from a recent Bloomberg poll. Second on the list of Trump criticisms that bothered people was his feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of a slain American Muslim soldier. That weeklong fight bothered 75 percent of respondents – 56 percent of them “a lot”.
His base loves it when he mocks the press, they make moves to rough up certain reporters he singles out, but this one reporter, who wrote something that pissed off Trump, should have been off-limits. Trump doesn’t see why – he meant no harm – and that’s a bit of a problem for him, along with those pesky parents.
Of course this had to come to a head:
Dozens of Republicans have signed an open letter urging Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to shift resources away from the Trump campaign to House and Senate races instead.
According to a report by Politico, the letter urges the RNC to shift resources to vulnerable congressional races in order to “prevent the GOP from drowning with a Trump-emblazoned anchor around its neck.”
“We believe that Donald Trump’s divisiveness, recklessness, incompetence, and record-breaking unpopularity risk turning this election into a Democratic landslide,” the letter reads, according to the report, which urges “the immediate shift of all available RNC resources to vulnerable Senate and House races.”
“This should not be a difficult decision,” the letter continues, “as Donald Trump’s chances of being elected president are evaporating by the day.”
They’ve had enough:
The letter goes on to detail “outrages” which have “alienated millions of voters of all parties,” ranging from Trump’s attacks on the Khan family to his call for Russia to release Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails and his proposed ban on Muslim immigration. Among the more than 70 signees are former RNC staffers and former congressmen.
Republican Andrew Weinstein, one of the letter’s organizers, said that the letter is from “people who want the party to protect its majorities in the Senate and the House” but is ultimately “not an endorsement of anybody.”
They want to save their party, but that’s getting more difficult:
Donald Trump said Thursday that he meant exactly what he said when he called President Barack Obama the “founder of ISIS” and objected when a conservative radio show host tried to clarify the GOP nominee’s position.
Trump was asked by host Hugh Hewitt about the comments Trump made Wednesday night in Florida, and Hewitt said he understood Trump to mean “that he (Obama) created the vacuum, he lost the peace.”
“No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS,” Trump said. “I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”
Hewitt pushed back again, saying that Obama is “not sympathetic” to ISIS and “hates” and is “trying to kill them.”
“I don’t care,” Trump said, according to a show transcript. “He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay?”
Hewitt and Trump went back and forth after that, with Hewitt warning Trump that his critics would seize on his use of “founder” as more example of Trump being loose with words.
Trump really doesn’t care about that, and Hillary Clinton pounced:
“It can be difficult to muster outrage as frequently as Donald Trump should cause it, but his smear against President Obama requires it,” Clinton tweeted. “No, Barack Obama is not the founder of ISIS. … Anyone willing to sink so low, so often should never be allowed to serve as our Commander-in-Chief.”
Trump is digging the hole deeper, and then there was the Time cover story:
Donald Trump told Time Magazine that there are plenty of people telling him to soften his tone and change his hard-charging rhetoric, but he’s not really sure that’s going to work out.
He’d rather run his gruff primary campaign all over again, he said.
“I am now listening to people that are telling me to be easier, nicer, be softer. And you know, that’s okay, and I’m doing that,” he told Time. “Personally, I don’t know if that’s what the country wants.”
Trump was a clear leader throughout the primary by dominating the news cycle. But in the race for the general election, he’s behind by double digits in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where he once was projected to have more than a fighting chance.
“I got 14 million votes and won most of the states,” he told Time. “I’m liking the way I ran in the primaries better.”
Others don’t feel that way:
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is apparently not all that thrilled with Trump’s strategy thus far. Citing two anonymous Republican officials, Time reported Priebus had been very clear in a conversation with Trump that internal polling shows him down and that the RNC planned to devote its time and money to down-ballot candidates if Trump didn’t clean up his act. Trump denied that conversation to Time, while Priebus didn’t comment.
Nothing is going to change:
Time’s story overall painted a picture of a Republican Party deeply frustrated with its nominee’s tendency to disregard the advice of others and follow his own unconventional path. For his part, Trump seems unfazed by the prospect of losing.
“All I can do is tell the truth,” Trump told Time. “If that does it, that’s great. And if that doesn’t do it, that’s fine too.”
Barring something crazy happening, Donald Trump is going to lose in November – probably quite badly – and it appears Trump may be starting to realize this.
He still offers up the usual argument that all polls showing him getting crushed nationally and in swing states are bogus and don’t count the secret people who will emerge from the shadows and vote for him over Hillary Clinton. But a bit of fatalism has also crept into his usual bluster.
On CNBC on Thursday, Trump twice mused on what his future might hold. Both times he seemed totally fine with the idea of losing.
“If at the end of 90 days I fall in short,” Trump said, “it’s okay. I go back to a very good way of life. It’s not what I’m looking to do. I think we’re going to have a victory, but we’ll see.”
Later, asked what he might do to turn around his crashing poll numbers, Trump basically said he wouldn’t change a thing. “Just keep doing the same thing I’m doing right now. At the end it’s either going to, you know, work, or I’m going to have a very, very nice long vacation.”
The full interview is at the link – he phones it in. He sounds groggy. He sounds like he’s still in his silk pajamas, trying to find where he put down his damned cup of coffee. He also sounds like doesn’t give a shit anymore.
If so, Josh Marshall surveys the damage he’s done:
In turbulent and interesting times such as these, as Donald Trump rumbles on from outrage to outrage, we’re all on the lookout for people who take some courageous or moral stand. Is this or that Republican taking a stand against Trump and saying they can’t support him? This is natural – because we look for inspiration, validation or moral example. But what makes these stories compelling is precisely because they break with the fabric of political interest. We assume it’s not the safe or self-interested thing to do. And in that way, focusing on the hold outs, few as they are, obscures the much more significant reality.
I’ve noted several times recently that for all that we’ve seen from Donald Trump – Curiel, Khan, the wink-wink calls for murdering political opponents – Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, the institutional apparatus of the RNC all remain as active endorsers of his candidacy and say they believe he should be the next President. That is an astounding fact. We can say that it shows a bracing lack of principle or political courage. And that may all be true. But again, it’s not the most important point. What’s really most important is that each of these people believes that the center of gravity in the GOP is pro-Trump and that their political futures would be damaged by turning against him. That is the big deal, far more important than this or that single person being admirable by bucking the tide.
And now, with Trump himself getting all fatalistic – he seems to sense he’s going to lose, even if WikiLeaks in October comes up with the email where Clinton talks about how she likes to drown kittens – what comes next is the issue:
Earlier this week I asked the question whether Trumpism would outlive Trump’s campaign. What I’ve just described above tells us pretty clearly that it will and that the GOP is now a Trumpite party and will remain a Trumpite party. To get a little more specific, this means that the white ethno-nationalist party which Trump has brought out of the shadows and mobilized is now and will continue to be the Republican Party.
I grant that there’s a less dramatic way to interpret the evidence. We might say this: It’s not that the GOP is now a Trumpite party but that there’s a faction of committed Trump supporters, perhaps 10% to 20% of the party. And no politician has any interest in antagonizing them because those folks will make trouble or be out to get you down the road. If you want to run for President in 2020, or have an easy reelection in 2018, you don’t want the Trumpers lined up against you. But the differences between these two ways of looking at the evidence aren’t as different as they seem. If Trumpism were simply a loud and radical faction within the GOP, there would be some comparable faction opposing it, raising stakes and consequences for those who supported him. But there’s not. In other words, the size of the Trumpite faction within the GOP (and I’d argue it’s quite large) is beside the point because it demonstrably rules the GOP.
It’s now apparent that there is nothing Trump can do, no outrage he can commit, that will lead them to withdraw their support. That’s the real story. And I see little reason to believe that will change after what looks like Trump’s highly likely defeat in three months.
This is the Republican Party:
What I’ve described here may have been the underlying reality of the GOP in the 21st century. But it still nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney, two fairly conventional center-right politicians. It had congressional leaders like John Boehner and Paul Ryan. Now Trump has said out loud what was already rumbling underneath the surface of 21st century Republican politics. He’s normalized a litany of statements and actions that were political verboten, at least from the party’s leadership. He has activated the voice of GOP white nationalism, spoken its language out loud and in so doing made it conscious of itself and expanded its ambitions. This seems like a transformative event. Maybe party leaders can stuff the energy of the white nationalist base back within a McCain/Bush/Romney package. I’m sure they will in a limited sense that Ryan and McConnell will remain the party’s congressional leaders. But on the broader level, I doubt it.
John Cassidy puts that a slightly different way:
When he’s not tied to a teleprompter, Trump often seems to say the most provocative thing that comes into his head, with little thought for the consequences for his campaign, or for the campaigns of other Republicans. He’s like a small child, trying to be the center of attention, even if that means he has turned himself into an object of outrage and ridicule.
If you take this view of Trump, there isn’t much more to be said. He’s the melting figure on the cover of this week’s Time magazine, a reality-television shyster who somehow captured the nomination of a major political party and is now dissolving in front of us. The only remaining questions for you are how big a majority Clinton will rack up, and whether the Republicans can limit the damage in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
I’ve got a lot of sympathy for this interpretation. But, just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Trump is smarter and less myopic than he seems. Let’s assume that what he’s really focused on isn’t winning this year’s election, a task he now realizes is beyond him, but creating a long-term Trumpian movement – a nationalistic, nativist, protectionist, and authoritarian movement that will forever be associated with him, but which also has the capacity to survive beyond him. A movement that in some ways would resemble other right-wing political parties around the world, such as France’s National Front, Austria’s Freedom Party, and the U.K. Independence Party, but which would also harken back to earlier moments in American history, such as the rise of the anti-immigrant Know Nothing movement of the eighteen-forties, and the formation, a century later, of the isolationist America First Committee, which sought a negotiated peace with Hitler.
If establishing such a following, and bringing about a historic realignment on the right, was Trump’s real intention – rather than moving into the Oval Office next January – some of what he has been saying lately would be more comprehensible. Not more accurate or less odious, but more explicable on its own terms.
Trump could be playing the long game:
History tells us that for right-wing populist movements to succeed, a number of things need to be in place. For one thing, they need a narrative that mainstream political leaders, and political parties, are guilty of not merely incompetence but betrayal. The most notorious example is the “stab-in-the-back” myth, widely believed in Germany after 1918. That narrative held that the German military didn’t really lose the First World War; the soldiers were betrayed by traitorous civilian politicians who signed an armistice. Later examples include the conviction in French conservative circles, during the nineteen-sixties, that Charles de Gaulle, in giving up Algeria, had betrayed France, and the accusation, thirty years later, that François Mitterrand and other French leaders had turned their backs on la Mère-Patrie by supporting the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union.
Trump has been arguing for months that the Obama Administration, in withdrawing almost all U.S. troops from Iraq, helped bring about the conditions that enabled ISIS to seize territory and create a self-styled caliphate. (He fails to point out that the Bush Administration initiated the troop withdrawal.) He first suggested that Obama and Clinton created ISIS seven months ago, long before this week’s comments. At a rally in January, he said, “They’ve created ISIS. Hillary Clinton created ISIS with Obama.”
At the time, Trump’s comments attracted some attention and criticism, but not very much. His principal adversaries then were his rivals in the Republican primary, and there was something of a competition going on to demonize Obama and Clinton. In returning to this sort of language now that he’s got the nomination – and escalating it with his use of the phrase “founder of ISIS” – Trump is, on the face of it, harming his prospects for November. He certainly doesn’t sound like he’s trying to win over the soccer moms in Columbus, or the office workers in Tampa, that he needs to win the election. He sounds like he is talking to his angry base, and supplying them with an inflammatory narrative that can be trotted out for years, and decades, to come. It’s a tactic that politicians outside the United States, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jörg Haider, have used to good effect in building up far-right nationalist movements.
It all fits:
Then there are Trump’s increasingly frequent references to the likelihood of his losing in November, and to the possibility that foul play will be responsible. “I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged, I have to be honest,” he told a rally in Ohio, on August 1st. A day later, talking to Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Trump returned to the theme, saying, “I’m telling you, November 8th, we’d better be careful because that election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
It is, of course, a staple of extremist parties of the left and right that democracy is a sham, and that elections count for nothing. And once you have delegitimized an election result, or an elected leader, you can justify all sorts of extra-electoral, and indeed anti-democratic, actions.
Anyone can see where this is going, but Cassidy then adds this:
So is this what Trump is up to – diligently seeking to create an enduring America First movement that will eventually supplant the Republican Party? I wouldn’t give him that much credit. He’s precisely the self-centered, shortsighted, and insecure figure he appears to be, and he’s now flailing around for excuses to explain a humiliating defeat in the making.
So, after Trump, there will be no Trump for us to kick around anymore, until there’s a better Trump:
Even if Trump is just along for the ride, that doesn’t excuse what he is doing. Four years from now, or eight years from now, a more disciplined and self-controlled figure could take up where he left off. If at that time the United States were facing a serious economic or national-security crisis, more Americans – conceivably even a majority of them – might be willing to accept the argument that regular politicians have failed and betrayed them, and that drastic measures are called for. Healthy democracies don’t decay overnight. They gradually rot from within…
And Trump will lose, spectacularly, and sort of win. After Trump we get a nastier one, sooner or later, leading an authoritarian Christian white ethno-nationalist party, but competently this time. Then, like the von Trapp family, some of us will head for the hills.